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Modeling Classroom Behavior With Student Video


One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through my teaching is the importance of modeling for students before I expect them to do a particular assignment — writing, reading strategies, etc. It seems to make a huge difference. It seems, though, that since I’ve gotten a document camera, being able to either have students come-up and show their work examples — or me just grabbing them and showing them on the camera — may even have a greater impact.

I obviously also try to intentionally model appropriate behavior as well and, though I think it’s important — especially for many of my students who may not have any or few male adults in their lives — I’m not convinced that modeling is quite as effective in resulting in similar student behavior. It’s probably safe to say that peer behavior functions as a more effective model.

I started thinking more about these topics after reading Observe a Good Deed, Perform a Good Deed, a report on a study showing that students seeing videos of people performing acts of kindness were more likely to do altruistic acts themselves. Of course, this idea of seeing/replicating isn’t that new, and I’ve written about a similar study on a different topic in Self-Control Can Be Contagious.

But all this got my brain percolating. Since it appears that people might replicate behavior they see on a video, and that my students seem to take to heart cues that they get from their peers, I wondered if I should try an experiment: Why not identify specific areas of classroom behavior — for example, working in a small group and eliciting participating from everybody, and show students a video of their peers modeling that behavior? Then, telling them that one of their future projects will be to make a short video modeling appropriate classroom/learning behavior on a topic of their choosing.

I could see starting off early in the year having my IB Theory of Knowledge making a video and then showing it to my mainstream ninth-grade English class as a model.

I’m thinking it might have a positive effect. Or, at the very least, it couldn’t hurt 🙂

I know of a bunch of videos online designed to train teachers how to teach, but I don’t know of ones that are designed by students to help them become better learners. Maybe they’re out there. Does anyone know of examples? Have you tried doing something like this?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Pingback: After reading Larry Ferlazzo and thinking about the Buddha « On Learning

  2. That’s a great idea, Larry!
    We have PBS (Positive Behavior Support) in my school. We’re starting our second year with it when we go back in August. I think it would be great to have students videotape themselves demonstrating our P.R.I.D.E. Thanks for the idea!

  3. I’ve done something like this, but more spontaneously. I saw a student who was very “behaviorally challenged” finishing up classwork in the back of lab (a very UN-desirable activity), and video-ed him with my camera phone. I then showed it to him at the end of the period, and poineted out the specific behaviors that were on-task and praised him for doing it un-prompted.

    I think doing it in a more structured way like you’re planning would be a good idea too.

  4. I love this idea Larry. I especially think that giving a disruptive kid a job, such as making a video recording, is a great way to channel some of that negative energy into something positive.

    @Alice, I am surprised at your use of the cell phone cam in the classroom, and I think it is a great reversal of the stuff I found in my YouTube in the Classroom project. Usually it’s the kids secretly recording the teacher. I guess this technology cuts both ways.

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